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Croatian Rhapsody

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Being a fashion girl wasn’t just about putting on an outfit and posing in front of a camera. Well, it could be, but to be an elite Super High School Level Fashion Girl, a person needed to be more than that. They had to be born with a cute face and grow up cute. Sometimes, puberty could be a blessing, or it could be a nail in the forehead. On top of being cute and pretty and gorgeous, they had to have a quirky personality and not seem too smart but actually be really, really smart, like Junko.

That wasn’t enough though.

See, Junko possessed another Super High School Level ability that gave her an edge over everyone else. She had incredible analytical skills. Like, absolutely amazing analytical skills. Any upcoming fashion trends, she could see a mile away. Any useful contacts, she could adjust her personality accordingly and win them over within minutes. Any fashion events, she knew which to attend and which to ignore.

Such an awesome talent came with a downside, though.

Knowing how everything would turn out was boring. Really boring. Things always worked out how Junko expected, and so she despaired.

But not how she wanted to. No, the despair she wanted to experience could only come from one thing. Disorder. Chaos.

And that was why she orchestrated what she did.

“Muku-chan!” whined Junko, splayed out on her sofa with her feet resting on Mukuro’s lap.

Mukuro continued scrubbing Junko’s boots, which Junko was still wearing. “Yes, Junko-chan?”

Junko stretched her arms past her head and arched her back. Her face scrunched up momentarily, but when her body relaxed, so did her face, glowing with delight. A fire burned in her, small at first, but its smoke and warmth filled her. She couldn’t stop smiling and thrashed her legs, letting out a giggle.

“That was amazing,” Junko purred, and she crossed her arms over in front of her chest, gripping her shoulders, wiggling more. “Did you see their faces, Muku-chan?”

“I did,” said Mukuro with a wane smile, and she waited for Junko’s feet to steady before she resumed her attempt at cleaning her boots.

“They were filled... with such despair!” Junko said. “Absolutely... despair inducing!”

Mukuro didn’t reply. Junko panted, gulping noisily. She shuddered and her grin shone brightly.

“I want more, Muku-chan,” she said. “More, more, more! I want the whole world to experience such a wonderful, terrible thing!”

“I know you do,” said Mukuro softly.

Junko took a while to stop flailing. Mukuro returned to dealing with Junko’s boots. At first, Junko lay very still, and she looked very serious, but again, that didn’t last long either. A chuckle tickled Junko’s throat, and she burst out laughing again.

“I’ve got it, the most despair-inducing plan in the history of mankind!” said Junko, shaking all over. “Ah, just thinking about it... I think I need to take a shower almost as much as you do, Stinky-kuro!”

Mukuro stiffened with a pout. “I’m not stinky... I had a shower an hour ago.”

“Some people are born with fewer apocrine sweat glands than others, particularly East Asians,” Junko said. “However, you must have been born with a defect, so you’re naturally stinky!”

She pinched herself on the nose, and Mukuro huffed.

“Oh, if only you could realise how ugly, stinky and stupid you are”, bemoaned Junko, moving her hand to rest the back of it against her forehead. “You would be so full of despair! I’d probably kill myself in your shoes.”

Junko paused, then rolled off the couch and got to her feet. By stepping on the back of her boot, she pulled her foot out of it, and she did the same for her other. She left them by the couch and strode away, swishing her hips as she crossed over to the door to the bathroom.

When she got there, she didn’t enter, holding onto the door handle with a slack grip.

“What is the opposite of despair, Muku?” asked Junko, facing the door.

Her super duper perception skills told her that Mukuro had picked up her boots.

“Despair?” said Mukuro. “Um...”

“Too slow! You’re too slow.” Junko spun around and put her hands on her hips. Yep, Mukuro had. If she was close enough, she’d have rapped her knuckles on Mukuro’s empty skull. “It’s option C, hope! Hope is an expectation or desire for something to happen. The grounds for believing something good will transpire. And that’s totally boring! Since the moment we’re born, we’re told fairytales where everything ends happily ever after. For there to be despair, we need to have an absence of hope.”

Mukuro nodded. Junko stomped a foot.

“Don’t nod if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about!” she hissed, and Mukuro winced.

Pursing her lips, Junko placed a hand on her cheek. She got out a pair of glasses from her jacket pocket and put them on. Her eyes narrowed, very cool.

“If we want the whole world to brim with despair, we must remove all hope,” said Junko, “and that starts with the hope in our class.”

Like the inevitable tick of a clock, Mukuro lifted her head.

“You mean...?” Mukuro trailed off.

“Yes!” Junko tossed her glasses away and clapped her hands together, beaming from ear to ear. “If we remove that hope, then the void left will fill with despair... which we would have already done if you hadn’t lost his letter like a moron, though this could work out even better. But after our last stunt, I’m going to have to lay low for a while. I’ve always wanted to try being a redhead...”

She opened the bathroom door, but didn’t go in yet. Her eyes flitted over to Mukuro one last time and her smile shrunk, but it didn’t go completely.

“Ah, Muku-chan... don’t bother trying to get the blood out of those. I’m just going to get more on them, anyway. You’re like an intern rearranging an office file, or typing up a document from a PDF.”

Junko disappeared into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. Mukuro threw the boots onto the carpet and sighed.


A lot of events transpired in a few weeks and they weren’t all the sort that were to be expected at an educational establishment, even with as high prestige as Hope’s Peak. Ash had settled over everything afterwards, but in the way that ash settled after an active volcano erupted. There were two ways to look at it - an extraordinary thing occurred that might never happen again, or by happening, it showed that it was possible to happen so could happen again.

On a tranquil Saturday evening, Makoto sat at a table in the school library with two of his classmates. Byakuya and Touko were seated opposite him, both reading different books while Makoto positioned his book in a way that they wouldn’t spot the manga hidden inside of it. Originally, he and Byakuya had been seated together, but Makoto beckoned Touko over when he noticed her nearby.

Up to now, the day had been largely uneventful. Quiet. A lot of students travelled in packs these days, or made sure their routes included as many security cameras as possible. In this part of the library, they were the only people there, except a librarian lurking around somewhere.

Makoto’s eyelids grew heavy. Libraries had this effect on him. His head tipped slowly forward, but when Touko sneezed, he jerked his head back and dropped his book on the table with a thud.

The sound of her sneeze echoed. Byakuya barely furrowed his brow, while Makoto’s eyes darted over to her. She sat motionlessly with her head bent forward. A few seconds later, she raised her head sharply, blinking one eye, then the other.

“Huh?” Touko’s eyes flickered around the room. “Okay... Where the hell am I today?”

Byakuya lifted his gaze from his book, and seeing the face next to him, he tensed. The face resembled Touko’s greatly. They had the same pale violet eyes, the same circular framed glasses and the mole was even in the exact place. Their hair was styled in twin braids, and they wore the same school uniform, but their tongue hung out of their mouth and they didn’t tremble or fidget as they surveyed their surroundings.

Then there was the voice. It lacked any quavering, mumbles or stammers that Touko’s usually had, and it had a muffled huskiness that she didn’t usually, if ever, speak with.

“Fukawa-san?” said Makoto, confused.

The stranger fixed their eyes on him.

“Who the hell are you?” they snarled.

Makoto twitched back like she had tried to bite him and knitted his brows.

“You know who I am,” he said. They didn’t respond, didn’t move at all, staring back at him. “Are you feeling alright, Fukawa-san?”

Whoever they were, they tilted their head slowly from one side to the other, not once breaking eye contact with him.

“Hm... you’re not my type at all,” they said, and they glanced away. Catching sight of Byakuya, they swiveled around to face him instead.

The ends of their lips curved up.

“But you... you’re just my type!” they squealed, clutching their cheeks.

A loud, wheezy laugh burst out of them that sprayed saliva, and they jiggled excitedly in their chair. Makoto’s mouth hung open, rendered speechless by their sudden, erratic behaviour, but Byakuya seemed to have got over his initial surprise and now clenched his jaw.

“Oi, you. Be quiet,” Byakuya said without raising his voice, glaring at the stranger who resembled Touko.

If that had been Touko, she would have squeaked and apologised and slapped a hand over her mouth, but the stranger regarded Byakuya with a wide smile, their tongue writhing out in the open.

“Or what?” they asked, eyes twinkling. “You’ll spank me?”

Byakuya cringed, which only served to amuse the stranger more. They gave a snort and threw their head back, bursting out laughing again.

“Your face is so hot! I’m getting all fired up!” they crowed, holding their sides, and Byakuya hunched his shoulders with an even more sullen look on his face than before.

Makoto’s eyes flitted between the two. The Touko that he knew was more passive, and while she could get heated when it came to Byakuya, she never became so passionate, so noisy. To Makoto, who had gone out of his way to try to befriend all of his classmates, there was no question about it: this definitely wasn’t Touko Fukawa.

“What’s wrong with Fukawa-san?” he asked both of them.

The stranger finally turned their eyes back to him.

“You think I’m Gloomy?” they asked, their smile flattening until it almost disappeared entirely. Their brows squished together.

His chair grunted as he stood up. He stared at the stranger uneasily.

“We need to get her to the infirmary,” said Makoto. “Or... or to her room to lie down.”

“I’m fine!” they insisted, back to grinning again. They poked their index fingers against their cheeks, trying to appear cute, or something. “Better than fine! But let’s get out of this stuffy library, shall we? The three of us can go somewhere secluded... like I said,” this was directed at Makoto, and their face suddenly became more serious, “you’re not my type at all, but maybe if I pin you up next to this stud,” that was about Byakuya, and they brightened up, “then I can make an exception.”

Makoto froze, one hand on the surface of the table. The stranger reached under the table; though, using ‘stranger’ was not appropriate anymore. While Makoto no doubt had no clue what was going on, Byakuya knew the identity of the person who looked just like Touko and sat where she had been sitting.

Before Byakuya could react, the person revealed a pair of scissors from under the table, retrieved from the holster worn on their thigh, hidden by their long skirt. They pointed the scissors at Makoto’s neck. He stiffened. Any further, and the scissors would have pricked him and created a bead of blood.

Byakuya’s senses kicked in and he grabbed their wrist. Colour had drained from Makoto’s face, and his lips trembled but no words came out. The person made no attempt to bring the scissors any closer, though, and broke out into a fit of giggles.

“Your faces are priceless!” said the person, glowing. “I’m not going to kill you, dumb-dumb!”

Despite the reassurance, Makoto choked out, “What-?”

“I’m going to say this once,” Byakuya cut in with a low voice. He pushed up his glasses, eyes cold as he set them on Makoto. “The person that you see before you is not Touko Fukawa, though they share the same body. It is...”

“... Genocider Syo,” whimpered Makoto.

Indeed it was. Genocider Syo, the pseudonym of an unidentified serial killer active in Japan. Syo’s eyes lit up at the mention of her name.

“You know me?” she asked, retracting her hands so she could cradle her face. She rocked her head from side to side playfully.

Having the scissors away from his body helped Makoto breathe a bit easier, but his head was still reeling. When he tried to speak again, his voice gave a crack at the beginning and remained shaky throughout.

“Y-Yeah... you came up in a conversation in class... several times,” said Makoto. His arms shook as his hands pressed down on the table, but he didn’t sit again, doubled over the table with his head up so he could keep watching her. “The student council were murdered brutally, like some kind of occultish sacrifice... Fujisaki-kun suggested it could be you.”

That horrific, extraordinary incident had been the volcano of the school that spurted without warning. Their entire student council was killed in the same part of the school on the same night. Makoto’s chest panged. He should have been there, but he didn’t know they were meeting up, and he only found out later from friends of the deceased that they had all been issued a letter that he didn’t get for some reason. His must have got lost.

A stroke of bad luck had become a blessing, even though it didn’t feel that way to him. As absurd as it sounded, which was why he never said it out loud, he felt like he betrayed them by living. Yes, yes. Crazy talk. Makoto knew that, but he couldn’t shut out that niggling thought in how quiet moments.

Footage of the slaughter was available online, showing clips of dead bodies, of a shadowy figure slicing up some of the victims. Occasionally, hackers would make it play in classrooms without warning, or play the audio on loudspeakers. The devices had to be kept on in case of an emergency announcement, but as soon as they turned on to replay the killings, the teachers leaped over to shut them off.

Everyone always caught the first few seconds, at the least.

So, it made sense that the person behind this sickening incident was a serial killer who took pleasure in torturing their victims. Syo studied Makoto’s face attentively.

“Well... bzzt! Wrong!” Her tongue whipped the air. Makoto flinched. She straightened up, absentmindedly playing with her scissors with one hand, and kept her eyes on him. “I only kill with these scissors, handmade and polished with my juices, and I’m sure you’ll find that those guys are scissor-free.”

Byakuya adjusted his glasses, still seated.

“She’s right,” he said calmly.

Makoto turned to him, wide-eyed. He looked way too relaxed about the whole thing. “Togami-kun, you...?”

The frown on Byakuya’s face darkened.

“A while ago, Fukawa confided in me an interesting story,” explained Byakuya. “She said there’s a serial killer hiding in her, and unless she can find a way to control it, she will live in fear that it will kill again.”

Syo wagged her scissors at him. “You know my backstory? You slag!”

Byakuya eyed them but betrayed no emotion. Makoto ogled Byakuya, slack-jawed.

“You knew?” said Makoto, his eyes bulging, and Byakuya glanced at him.

“Yes,” said Byakuya. “For several months, actually. I’m interested to study them both. Besides, so long as she hasn’t killed anyone, then what’s the problem?”

Makoto threw up his arms.

“She’s a serial killer!” he reminded Byakuya, who continued staring back at him with indifference.

“Syo is. Fukawa is not,” Byakuya pointed out. He rose from his chair and peered down at Makoto, who didn’t even come up to Byakuya’s shoulders, even when both were standing straight. “Now, Naegi... we have a dilemma here, don’t we? We don’t want to have anyone telling on her.”

“You’re insane,” said Makoto, clenching his fists as he thought of those dead students and their families. The murder was right here, with them, humming to herself and watching them with amusement.

Or arousal. He hoped it was amusement.

Byakuya jutted out his chin, leering at Makoto. “Insane? Is that what you call things you don’t understand?”

They weren’t doing this.

“This is crazy.” Makoto shook his head. “She... Even if she didn’t kill the student council... she still murdered a bunch of people!”

“Chillax,” said Syo, patting the air with one hand hooked around a pair of scissors that she used to kill people. “I don’t plan on killing anyone. How would I get away with it? This school probably has cameras everywhere. ‘Sides, I can’t cheat on my darling.”

Makoto hesitated. “Your darling?”

She hugged Byakuya’s arm. Byakuya stiffened and blinked. Otherwise, he didn’t move. Those two did spend a lot of time together, and some of their classmates had wondered about the nature of this, but around others, Byakuya didn’t show Touko any kindness, treating her like anyone else in their class.

So could they really be...?

“Me and Gloomy share feelings, and she loves this guy!” Syo declared, nuzzling into Byakuya. “I’m not going to kill anyone so long as I can be with him.”

Disgust seeped onto Byakuya’s face. He curled his lip and wrenched his arm out of Syo’s hold. His expression didn’t change as he shifted his focus onto Makoto.

“Is that to be understood?” said Byakuya. “Not only will you feel the wrath of the school, you will feel mine too if you breathe a word of this to anyone.”

Makoto pinched his lips together bitterly, his fists clammy, but before he could answer, someone else spoke.

“He’s right,” came a voice that didn’t belong to any of the three around the table.

They whipped their heads toward the source. The librarian gazed at them coldly.

“Who is...?” asked Makoto hesitantly. Her brow tightened.

“Most of the faculty is aware of your classmate. We’re not just teachers, you know. We’re scientists too.” She eyed them with her hands on her hips, not wearing a labcoat like Makoto imagined scientists to wear but instead a grey suit. Her tortoiseshell glasses glinted. “I’m going to have to report this to the headmaster, but let me warn you now that if you think about telling anyone, we will be forced to take severe disciplinary action. But be assured that we are taking all precautions with her.”

Makoto’s heart sank. He squirmed, unable to escape her fierce gaze.

“A-Alright,” he conceded.

“Awesome!” In contrast, Syo beamed and clapped her hands together. “So, anyone up for a threesome?”

“No,” said Byakuya and Makoto at the same time. The librarian pursed her lips.

Syo slapped herself on the thigh. “Ah, worth a shot!”

“Come with me,” said the librarian, turning away, and the three of them followed her out.

None of them paid any attention to the girl with red hair, scribbling into a notebook in a shadow of the room.


 

The rain caused the male’s frantic footfalls to slap against the concrete pavement, though he most likely couldn’t hear it over his ragged breathing. Darkness had fallen a while ago, which didn’t help his tunnel vision, and few lamp posts gave him sufficient light to aid in his navigation.

He skidded to a stop by a fountain and tossed his head side to side, trying to decide which way to run.

However, just moments after he stopped, a thump sounded behind him.

His breathing hitched. Something cold pressed against his neck. Cold and hard. He choked, frozen, unable to flee, unable to move.

“P-P-Pl...” went the male. The pressure on his neck faded until it disappeared completely, but he did not, could not relax. Rain rapped at his jacket and flattened his hair against his head.

Then, without warning, pain exploded from his neck. He let out a scream, which was swiftly muffled by a gloved hand. His legs gave way and he slumped to the ground, convulsing. The world slowly began to blur until all he could see were dots of light and the silhouette of the person standing over him... if such a monster could be defined as a human.

Sure, they had two legs, two arms, and if shown a photograph of them, one might label them as a human being with no second thought, but that person hadn’t seen what he did. They wouldn’t have seen how his attacker bent down and gathered his blood on two fingers, or the lifeless eyes on the bunny mask that they wore over their face.

That was the last thing the male saw before his world turned white.

Next to his corpse, the attacker smeared blood onto the fountain, darting back and forth to collect more blood from their victim’s neck. Their other hand gripped their murder weapon, and once they finished writing what they wanted to onto the fountain, they shoved the murder weapon through their victim’s wrist. They reached into a holster on their belt, and one-by-one, inserted more similar weapons into their victim. Two in each wrist, some in their ribs, and a few in their neck.

The attacker adjusted the position of their victim’s limbs and studied their handywork. Not admired, but studied, and, satisfied, they broke into a sprint, shot up a tree and disappeared into the night with the agility of a superhuman soldier.

Or a Super High School Level Soldier.

Only when morning rose up could the writing be read.

A girl with lavender hair examined the message written in blood, and to herself, she murmured, “Bloodstain fever...”


A knocking sound broke the silence in Jin Kirigiri’s office.

“Come in,” he said. Until then, he had been reading a newspaper, and to an outsider, may have looked like he fell asleep at his desk, sitting up.

The door opened. Byakuya stepped inside, closing the door behind him. Behind Jin were wall high windows, where the sky glowed an eerie white between the straight frames. Dark purple curtains hung from the windows, full of vertical folds. Jin watched as Byakuya approached, thin eyebrows sitting upon serious, tired eyes.

They weren’t the only people in the room. The person standing next to the desk was Koichi Kizakura, Byakuya’s former homeroom teacher and a talent scout. He had been the one who met with Byakuya to formally invite him to attend the academy.

“Ah, Togami-kun,” Jin said in a lighter voice than his face hinted to. Byakuya stopped at the coffee table in front of Jin’s desk and folded his arms over his chest.

“I wish to talk to you,” said Byakuya.

“Please, take a seat,” replied Jin. He straightened and gestured forward, most likely to indicate that Byakuya could sit on either the square sofa or one of the armchairs on opposite sides of the coffee table.

However, Byakuya chose to remain standing and noticed that also in the room was Chisa, who sat hunched over a desk off to the side, working on some papers. Probably marking them.

Koichi tipped his fedora and sat on one of the armchairs. He quirked his brow at Byakuya, who ignored him.

Jin propped his chin on his hands, resting his elbows on the table, and dropped the casualness in his tone. “How can I help you, Togami-kun?”

Though, going by Byakuya’s expression, it couldn’t be anything simple. Or pleasant.

“I want to know what background checks you do on students prior to their enrollment,” said Byakuya.

Koichi blinked, then took a swig from his flask. This was a question for him. As he drank, he averted his gaze from Byakuya, and only after he lowered his flask did he set his eyes on Byakuya again.

“I have my sources on how I find out about potential candidates,” Koichi told him. “News, rumours... but I only search up enough to verify their achievements and don’t read too much about them until after I’ve met with them in person.”

He gave a lopsided grin and flicked his blond goatee.

“I try not to go in with too many conceptions, you see. It’s fun to see for myself what they’re like,” Koichi explained.

Jin narrowed his eyes at Byakuya.

“Why are you asking, Togami-kun?” asked Jin.

Byakuya inclined his head slightly. “Don’t you think that’s rather irresponsible? Surely you can’t extract every important bit of information from that single meeting.”

Koichi slapped on another smile and wiggled to get more comfortable. He gave a chuckle and flourished a hand.

“You’ll pop a blood vessel if you keep pulling that face,” remarked Koichi, lounging in the armchair, and he shook his flask. It had some alcohol left in it, which sloshed around. “I have the feeling that there’s something you specifically want to talk about, so instead of us walking around each other in the dark, why don’t you cut to the chase?”

They stared at each other silently for a moment. Then Byakuya spoke.

“Earlier this week, a student in the reserve course was murdered in the central plaza,” said Byakuya, and the other two tensed. Koichi eyed Byakuya with no trace of a smirk on his face anymore.

“Where did you hear that?” asked Jin, grimacing.

“Everyone in the school knows. It’s in the local papers.”

This prompted a small sigh from Jin. Of course, he already knew this. One of those very papers was on his desk.

“I was hoping that we could keep this contained,” said Jin. He pinched the divide between his brow.

Koichi sat up straighter and draped an arm over the back of the couch. Nearby, though Chisa didn’t turn around, the scratch of her pen became less frequent.

“The murder was committed by a student at this school, and evidence points toward it being Genocider Syo,” said Byakuya, and he pushed up his glasses, staring at Jin. “Next to the body was a message written in blood. It said ‘Bloodstain fever’, that message that Genocider Syo is known to leave at the crime scene of her victims. Also, the murder weapons were scissors matching those I have seen in her case file, and the way the body was propped up was reminiscent to crucifiction.”

No one said anything, neither an interruption or a question. Byakuya suspected that they didn’t want to prompt him, or give him any new information.

“Only top ranking officers knew about the crucifiction... and Genocider Syo herself,” he carried on. “So, the murder can only have been committed by Genocider Syo, or a student who read it in the files in the library... and only students enrolled under a Super High School Level have access to those.”

While Koichi’s squint could have been dismissed as confusion, Jin’s brow creased more, aging his youthful appearance, and he shifted around in his chair. The shadows on his face moved. Koichi’s eyes flickered between the two, settling on Byakuya.

“Only certain people were allowed to see the crime scene, and I don’t recall you being one of them,” said Koichi.

“I didn’t see the body in person, but Kirigiri answered some questions for me,” explained Byakuya, referring to Kyouko, not her father.

Kyouko was a detective who investigated bodies, while Jin seemed to be a person to covered them up. No wonder he had left behind a family of detectives to come to a place like this.

No wonder Kyouko never spoke highly of her father, when at all.

Koichi’s lips twisted in a reluctant smile.

“I thought Kyouko-chan was the one enrolled as a detective,” said Koichi. He chuckled. “Not bad.”

Jin cleared his throat with a tight frown.

“We have it under control,” he told Byakuya, squaring his shoulders. “Koichi, there’s no need for us to be opaque. Togami-kun is one of two students who are aware of Genocider Syo’s identity, and while she doesn’t attend under that name or title, she is enrolled here.

What Jin said next was directed at Byakuya, coupled with a steely edge to his eyes. That aspect he shared with his daughter, if anything.

“Togami-kun, what happened with the reserve course student and the student council were freak accidents. If you’re worried about your safety, you needn’t be. Measures will be put in place. Security will be increased so that it doesn’t happen again, and we have talked to said student about it.”

Byakuya studied him. What he was trying to read off Jin’s face, Jin didn’t know, but Jin kept his face blank.

“And what do you plan to do with her?” asked Byakuya.

Koichi pushed up the rim of his fedora. “I didn’t realise you were part of the faculty, Togami-kun.”

“I have a right to know, don’t I?” said Byakuya, shooting Koichi an icy look before returning to Jin. “Do you plan to expel her?”

Jin flexed his fingers on the desk, curling and uncurling them. He caught himself doing it and balled them into fists.

“... No,” admitted Jin, sagging slightly, but he spoke evenly. “She doesn’t have an official title, but her ability to murder is a talent... of sorts. This is a very rare case that we haven’t been able to study until now.”

Byakuya didn’t reply. Jin raised a hand and put on an awkward smile.

“Please, Togami-kun... Let’s keep this between us, alright?”

This earned a scoff from Byakuya.

“If the school’s reputation became damaged, the Togami name would be by association,” said Byakuya. “I don’t intend to divulge this, so long as I know that I won’t become a target.”

Jin nodded, rising from his chair, and said, “I promise that I will protect you and your classmates. I won’t let any harm come to you.”

His gaze was intense.

Byakuya’s stare lingered for a bit longer before he averted his eyes and gave a faint grin. “Then I am finished here. Goodbye, headmaster.”

He strode out of the room. Once the door closed beside him, Jin buried his face into his hands. Koichi noticed and walked over. He placed a hand on his shoulder and stooped his head.

“Perhaps it would be easier to subtly exclude her?” Koichi asked quietly.

Jin lifted his head by a small amount, revealing his eyes but still covering everything below that on his face with his hands.

“I can’t,” said Jin. “Fukawa-kun is a unique case... a person with two personalities, and two talents. We simply can’t pass this up. It may never happen again in my lifetime, or any others.”

Koichi sighed and squeezed Jin’s shoulder. “Your pursuit of understanding talent is commendable, but I wonder if this might be a poor decision.”

They looked at each other in silence. Nearby, Chisa finally stood up, and she walked straight to the door. When she got there, Jin raised his head and lowered his hands from his face. The shadows under his eyes only hinted at how tired he was.

“Yukizome, please continue to watch over your class diligently,” said Jin.

Chisa gave a nod and left the room. She marched purposefully through corridors, down stairs, into another corridor and into the women’s bathroom. Once she closed the door behind herself, she took off her orange wig and let her blonde pigtails bounce in the open.

This, of course, wasn’t actually Chisa.

“Don’t worry,” said Junko with a full smile, “I’ll take good care of them for you.”


Despite the unease that loomed over the academy due to recent events, the faculty were under strict instructions to carry on as if nothing was wrong. Chisa, the real Chisa, couldn’t bring back the dead no matter how much she cried at the memorial for the deceased and into her pillow at night. Wishing did nothing, and all she could do was act in the present for the sake of the future.

For the sake of her students. For them, she would be prepared to do anything. Make any sacrifice.

“Good morning, everyone!” Chisa said brightly. She clapped her hands, and the class replied in a low mumble.

At the start of the year, she was greeted by a chorus of youthful voices. ‘Good morning, Yukizome-sensei!’ Then she would talk about her breakfast, or an interesting-shaped leaf that she witnessed on the walk over, or recommend a perfume. But this was to be expected, wasn’t it? Since her first day on the job, a lot of things had happened.

She swept her gaze across the class, but then froze. One desk was unoccupied. A person could fall sick, or oversleep, but in all her time here, this desk had never been vacant.

“Does anyone know where Ishimaru-kun is?” she asked, keeping the corners of her lips upturned in an active effort.

Everyone turned toward his desk, as if they hadn’t noticed until she mentioned it, but they must have.

“Huh... He’s usually the first person here,” said Aoi, scratching above her ear.

“Maybe he overslept?” suggested Leon, leaning back in his chair with his hands cupping the back of head.

“No way,” said Mondo, his arms folded over his chest. He tipped his head to one side and pulled a face in thought. “I didn’t see him at breakfast either, now I think of it.”

The uptight public committees member, Kiyotaka, and the motorbike gang leader, Mondo, could hardly seem more different, and their beliefs and methods, one of debate and one of violence, had often led to them butting heads. But once they found common ground during a contest of who could hold onto a fence for the longest that lasted eight hours, not just because they stood on the same patch of soil but because they realised that both put extreme work into their passions, they became almost inseparable.

They must have spoken about other things during that time, but only Makoto was there to witness it, and he could only tell Chisa what he witnessed before he left after the fourth hour.

“Maybe he’s sick?” Chihiro piped up, fidgeting.

That made more sense.

Yasuhiro rose and lifted a hand. “I can go check on him.”

Hifumi gave a short laugh and pushed up his spectacles. Whenever Byakuya did it, he seemed like one of the cool anime boys with glasses who would serve as a love interest for a shoujo main character, while Hifumi looked more like a gag character.

“You just want to skip some of class,” Hifumi told Yasuhiro. He stroked his chin. “I volunteer myself, as much as I don’t want to... but someone must.”

“This is the pot calling the kettle black,” sneered Touko, and Hifumi pointed at her fiercely.

“I don’t need to hear this from someone who can’t appreciate the beauty of manga!”

“All manga is trash! B-Besides, you draw doujin, which is even more lowbrow...”

Chisa made a face as the pair locked each other in a staring contest. This could have gone on for a while, and had done on previous occasions.

Sayaka raised her hand.

“I think our class president should go,” said Sayaka, and everyone turned to Makoto, even Touko and Hifumi. Truly, Sayaka was an angel.

“Naegi-kun? Would you?” asked Chisa.

Makoto stood up slowly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Sure, I would-”

The door burst open. Kiyotaka stumbled in. Everyone stared. He always wore a carefully ironed uniform, his tie done up right to the top, all his buttons fastened. Light would gleam off his shoes that had been painstakingly polished, and not a hair would be out of place in his spiked hair.

When he fell into the room, his hair was matted and wet. His shirt was untucked, ripped, buttons missing, and his shoes scruffed. Dirt and blood grazed his white shirt, and his jacket was only half on. He managed a few more steps, clutching his middle, and collapsed.

“Ishimaru-kun!” Chisa cried out.

Chairs legs screeched. Necks craned. Mondo swooped down, dropping to his knees, and scooped Kiyotaka up into his arms. Touko cowered in her chair, averting her gaze. Blood. She couldn’t stand blood.

“Kyoudai!” Mondo said through gritted teeth. He shook Kiyotaka, and Chisa grabbed onto Mondo’s shoulders to try to get him to stop. “Who did this to you? I’ll kill them!”

Kiyotaka coughed. Blood ran down from his nose. Aoi knelt by them and held Kiyotaka’s hand.

“Outside,” groaned Kiyotaka. “There’s... a protest... central plaza.”

Mondo blinked. Chisa turned away with a frown and approached the window.

“A protest?” she asked. She couldn’t see anything outside, but they might have moved on.

Still, they couldn’t have gone far, and she couldn’t let someone who attacked one of her students get away with this.

Her brow furrowed and she turned back to the others. “Stay here, guys. I’ll go see what’s happening.”

Chisa started for the door.

“Attention,” said the speakers in the corner of the room, and she paused. “Everyone, please stay in your classroom until further instructions. There is a commotion outside but it will be dealt with. You are in no danger. Carry on with classes as normal.”

The clock on the wall ticked. All eyes fell on Chisa. She breathed.

“Alright,” she said quietly. “I guess... we’ll start with roll call.”

Despite what was going on in the school, Chisa stationed herself in front of her class and took attendance. Then she started a maths lesson. However, not even ten minutes in, they heard a distant rumble, and she cut herself off mid sentence, tensing. It grew progressively louder, coming from outside.

Those closest to the window turned toward it. Chisa drew closer to see for herself, her heart beating faster. The rabble originated from a crowd of people. They resembled a grey cloud, and as they approached the building, so did the storm. Dozens of people made up the group, and as they got closer, those in the classroom could discern that they were waving signs, and closer still, the text and images on their signs could be distinguished.

At this point, Touko let out a strangled gasp.

“Genocider Syo, has to go!” the people outside chanted. “Genocider Syo, has to go!”

One sign had a silhouette of a human with red eyes and clawed fingers. Others had their slogan written on it, and others bore photographs of Touko’s face. Rage contorted their faces as they shouted, over and over again.

“Is that... Fukawa-chan?” asked Aoi, screwing up her eyes as she examined the signs. She turned to Touko, who didn’t turn back to her.

No, Touko had her eyes set on Byakuya.

“Why?” croaked Touko.

Byakuya looked at her.

“Why... did you tell everyone?” said Touko, trying but failing to suppress the shakiness in her voice. She held up her fists, like she intended to fight, only to seize her head. “You promised you wouldn’t...”

Everyone except Kiyotaka gawked at them. Their eyes darted between the two, flickering between Touko’s trembling face and Byakuya’s blank stare.

“What are you talking about?” asked Yasuhiro with a grin not bright enough to reach his eyes. “Those people outside are wrong, right? Fukawa-chi can’t be Genocider Syo. That’s identity theft, and she can’t even stand blood.”

Touko didn’t respond, withdrawing into herself with a vacant look on her face, and Byakuya didn’t take his eyes off her, silently training his gaze on her. The air was thick and suffocating. Time crawled by, and with every passing second, Touko seemed to crumble away more and more.

Chisa hung her head.

“I’m sorry...” She couldn’t look at any of them. “But... it’s true... Touko Fukawa has DID, and her alter is a murderer called Genocider Syo.”

Her confession made her take the blunt of their staring now. Even though she was too cowardly to raise her head, she could feel their eyes burn into her skin.

“You knew?” asked Junko.

“Most of the faculty knows,” said Chisa. She winced. It felt like they were stabbing needles into her skin. “I’m sorry...”

Someone stomped a foot. Chisa guessed Junko.

“We have a serial killer in our class, and you didn’t tell us?” said Junko, louder, and Chisa couldn’t avoid their gazes forever, so she lifted her head.

Junko had a hand over her heart, another arm stretched out to her side, and Chisa could feel the pain in her students’ eyes. She felt it in her gut, like a knife being twisted inside of it. The only people without that excruciating glimmer in their eyes were Byakuya, who had gone dull and cold, Touko, whose head was bowed forward, and Junko, who stared at Chisa with large eyes that shone with a light more of... curiosity?

“Why, that’s like, totally uncool!” said Junko. Indignant voices sprouted up around her. Junko bent down, wiped her finger on one of Kiyotaka’s head wounds and as she stood up again, she held it up for all to see.

“Gross! Blood!” Junko said, crumpling her face.

Makoto widened his eyes then turned to Touko. She swayed on her feet, then collapsed onto the floor with a loud thump.

Everyone recoiled from her at the sudden sound, swivelling their heads toward the source of the noise.

For a few seconds, she lay very still. Then, her body shook, and Genocider Syo leaped to her feet.

Syo tilted her head back and sniffed.

“What’s that I smell?” She squinted and licked her lips. “... blood?”

There had been better introductions than this.

“My, what a sudden change in personality,” remarked Celes, placing a hand to her lips. “Could you be...?”

The noise outside distracted Syo. Ignoring Celes, Syo turned to the window instead.

“Huh?” She studied what was going outside for a moment, then, with incredible speed, she got out scissors from her holster and pointed them at Byakuya.

He could feel their point against his neck. The metal wasn’t cold, in fact, it was warm, but where the scissors touched him, an iciness spread to the rest of his body.

“What’s going on? Did you squeal?” she demanded in a tone as sharp as her scissors.

His breath tripped in his throat.

“No,” said Byakuya, unable to escape her gaze. It coiled around him, tightening around his neck, and he had never felt anything like this before.

“Can you prove it?” asked Syo. She turned her eyes to Makoto and entangled him instead. “Or was it you?”

“N-Never!” rasped Makoto, showing her his hands.

Syo continued staring. Outside, the protesters bellowed with no signs of backing off or leaving. Celes turned to the window solemnly, her pale face smooth, devoid of any lines.

“If they’re just upset because the murderer is here, why don’t we give her over?” she asked, placing a manicured hand flat against the glass.

Her suggestion didn’t sink in right away, with everyone’s minds clouded, as incoherent as the voices outside that overlapped and crashed into one another, but as it did, they all slowly turned to Syo, who readied a battle stance, scissors opening and closing.

Makoto got in front of her quickly, facing the others.

“Hold on, everyone!” he said, his heart racing. “I know it’s absurd to defend a serial killer...”

“You’re damn right,” said Mondo, cracking his knuckles.

“But...”

There it was. Everyone narrowed their eyes at him. Kiyotaka shifted on Mondo’s lap. Byakuya adjusted his glasses with a frown, but his was not directed at Makoto.

“... Genocider Syo hasn’t killed anyone since starting here,” Byakuya told them.

Unsurprisingly, this didn’t dispel the hardened looks on their faces.

“What about the student council? And the reserve course student?” asked Aoi, waving her arm.

“Those weren’t me!” Syo said, peeking past Makoto’s shoulder. She brandished her scissors. “I only use my scissors for my art. Would you ask a butcher to perform surgery on you?”

Kyouko stepped forward. Makoto tensed, but Kyouko didn’t try to get past him, her eyes fixed on Syo simpering face.

“The reserve course student was found with your scissors,” said Kyouko. “Or at least, ones resembling yours.”

Syo sobered up immediately and bristled. “Those can’t be mine. Listen, I’ve killed a lot of people, what’s the use of me lying? I’m telling you, I’ve barely been out. I’ve not killed anyone in more than a year.”

“She’s right,” said Byakuya, glancing at Syo before setting his eyes on Kyouko. “I could see from the photographs... they were a decent forgery. I can confirm that Genocider Syo did not murder him, or anyone at this school. I know her case inside-out.”

Byakuya stretched himself out to his full height.

“From when Fukawa started at this school, she has tried to stop Syo from fronting,” Byakuya carried on. “Before then, in fact, since the first murder started years ago. Fukawa takes no pleasure in them being killed. She came to me, desperate to learn how to control it so that no one else would die. And if you hand her over to those people...”

He flung his arm out, motioning to the window.

“... then the case will be closed, and whoever it is killing people, right now, will be free to commit another murder,” said Byakuya.

Everyone exchanged uncomfortable looks.

Makoto braced himself. Took a deep breath.

“Please... I understand you guys,” he said. His voice faltered as he surveyed his friends’ faces. They were angry, yes, but also afraid. “I felt the same way, but to turn Fukawa-san over to the mob, when she has done nothing wrong... that’s not right. She needs our help. Fukawa-san is our friend. She can’t help it.”

The rest of the class wavered. No one said anything, processing what had been said, weighing their options.

Then, the door opened, and security guards swarmed in. At the front was Jin, dressed in a crisp suit.

“What’s going on?” asked Chisa, snapped out of her trance. Remembering her promise to herself to give her all for the future of her students, every single one of them, she looked around, but the best she could see nearby for a weapon was a duster. She picked it up anyway.

However, she wasn’t the only one inspired to take action. Makoto stayed in front of Syo, and the others roused. Sakura raised her fists and Leon reached into his bag for a baseball to throw. Mukuro extracted a knife from her belt.

Jin stared past them.

“Fukawa-kun,” he said to Syo in a harsh, cold tone. “You need to come with us. We’re going to take you somewhere else. You’re not safe here.”

Everyone hesitated. Syo adjusted her footing, poised with scissors firmly in her hands, but Byakuya grabbed her shoulder before she could pounce forward.

“I’ll come with you,” he said.

“Sorry, Togami-kun, but you’re wanted by someone else,” said Jin.

Byakuya cocked his head slightly. “By who?”

Jin gazed at him.

“Your father is waiting for you in my office,” he said.


 

The first time Byakuya saw his father in the flesh was only in passing, and Byakuya didn’t speak to him. Byakuya had been roughly ten, and his father’s eyes seemed to look through him as if Byakuya was translucent, or even transparent, during a visit that his father made to his mansion for a meeting that Byakuya wasn’t invited to. They next met when they shook hands after Byakuya became his heir, and the rest of their meetings were for mentoring or business reasons, or both.

Inside Jin’s office, Byakuya laid his eyes on his father, Kijou Togami, a man with thick eyebrows that arched slightly and silver hair streaked with wisps of dark hair.

Kijou turned his head toward the door in a fluid movement, his gaze like a winter night. He stood with his hands behind his back.

“Sit,” said Kijou.

Byakuya sat on one of the armchairs and faced forward, even as Kijou paced slowly, back and forth, behind him.

“Genocider Syo, huh?” he drawled, and Byakuya tightened his jaw, refusing to reply. Kijou stopped walking and thwacked something against something. Hand against paper. Papers.

Again, Byakuya didn’t so much as look at him, staring forward, and Kijou sauntered over to stand beside him. He half-threw, half-slammed a newspaper down on the coffee table.

In big, bold font, the headline roared ‘DEPRAVED KILLER IS A WOMAN’, and under the text were two images. One of a police sketch of a man with sunken features, and another a grainy photograph of Touko Fukawa.

“Have you forgotten to read, like you seem to have forgotten how to speak?” asked Kijou, his hot breath invading Byakuya’s ear. “Do you need me to read what it says to you?”

Byakuya shifted a little.

“I know what it says,” said Byakuya.

Kijou’s lips crackled as he stretched them out.

“In your class, for more than a year,” said Kijou, straining to keep his tone level, like a piece of paper about to rip.

“It was quite the coverup,” Byakuya replied dryly, and Kijou exhaled through his teeth.

“Don’t be smarmy with me,” sneered Kijou. There was rustling, and then he thrust another newspaper down on top of the previous one.

Byakuya intended to only glance at it.

However, as he began to read it, he widened his eyes and couldn’t look away.

This newspaper bore the title ‘SERIAL KILLER’S BILLIONAIRE SWEETHEART’ and underneath, featured a blown up photograph of Byakuya and Touko standing close in Byakuya’s dorm, holding hands, facing each other. From the angle, it must have been taken through the window, and as Byakuya’s dorm wasn’t on the first floor, it had to be a drone, unless someone actually scaled the building and lurked on the balcony without them realising.

If they captured that moment, then...

“Dated a month ago,” said Kijou, acid oozing through the hair thin lines fracturing his voice. “Tell me, Byakuya, when did you intend to inform me that you had chosen a candidate to birth you heirs?”

Byakuya’s hands twitched into fists. “We aren’t...”

“Don’t mutter, boy!” Kijou cut in at his loudest yet. His control on his tone crumbled the more he spoke. “Even ignoring how this filth is a serial killer, as ludicrous as that sounds, what the hell are you thinking? A romance writer, with her background? Her parents sold their stories to nationwide newspapers, though they’re certainly pieces of work themselves. Trashy pieces of scum. She’s a commoner. A faulty, worthless piece of-”

“Shut up!” Byakuya snarled.

Kijou did so out of surprise, not because he meant to carry out Byakuya’s request, and stepped back. Byakuya twisted around as he got to his feet, and his face burned in a heated glare.

“Fukawa is not filth,” he told Kijou, the muscles in his arms quivering. “I’m not courting her, but do you think I would associate with someone worthless? She is intelligent, talented and-”

“- a serial killer!” Kijou shouted. “For God’s sake, Byakuya, she killed a whole student council and another student here. How do you think that looks?”

“She didn’t commit those murders. The student council were killed by someone else. They didn’t even use her murder weapons.”

“So she used something else! Listen to yourself.” If Kijou clenched his jaw any harder, he could have cracked his teeth. “And what about that boy, hm? Those scissors of hers were used there. I read it in an article today.”

“That wasn’t her either. Those were fakes. And she couldn’t have done that, undeniably.”

“Really?” said Kijou, his shoulders shaking. He thrusted up his chin, eyes slits. “What’s your excuse? She only kills on a full moon? She has to do her groceries first? Or does she book every murder through you?”

“Because...” Pain shot up Byakuya’s arms from his fists, throbbing intensely. He remembered Touko’s smile, her short fingernails and the smell of her shampoo, but most importantly, how in that nausea he had felt, the happiness flickering within. “... she spent that night with me.”

A beat passed where nothing happened, then it all came crashing down. Kijou struck Byakuya’s cheek with his hand, sending Byakuya reeling. Byakuya struggled to keep his balance but managed not to fall over. He rested a hand on his cheek. It felt like it was on fire.

“Do you know what damage you’ve done, you foolish little boy?” roared Kijou, spraying spittle, and he limbered his neck as he approached again. “The stocks of the conglomerate... in ruins... our reputation down the toilet... our name, tarnished by your perverted games. You idiot! You disgrace!”

Kijou punched Byakuya but this time, Byakuya couldn’t save himself. He staggered and fell. His glasses clattered somewhere nearby.

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re no Togami. You’re dirt. Dust,” said Kijou, standing over him, and he spat.

Byakuya didn’t answer and swiped his knuckles against the corner of his eyes.

“Don’t tell me you’re crying... you truly are hopeless,” said Kijou, and Byakuya didn’t look up, listening to his father’s heavy-footed strides.

The door slammed.

Jin and his associates watched in silence.


 

After that, the sky was red. Red like the blood that stained many of the corridors. Red like the blood that spurted from the student council members on the television screens in each classroom, sporadic and unexplained but growing more frequent. Red like Kiyotaka’s eyes as he stared vacantly out of the window. Red like Celes’s eyes as she stared at the ‘Taeko Yasuhiro’ tattoo on her arm, made after some reserve course students pinned her down. Red like Junko Enoshima’s lipsticked smile.

Don’t worry, despite Junko’s countenance, she thought it appropriate to dress for the occasion. Junko had replaced her beige cardigan with a black one and the bow on her broach was black too. She even considered dying her hair black, but that would make her too similar to Mukuro, so she didn’t.

Even though her lips curved smoothly, subtly upward, the rest of the class gave off enough hopelessness to dampen the mood. Protests rumbled like thunder, only, it didn’t pass like thunder. At the beginning, it was only students from the prep school that roamed the academy grounds. A parade, that was what Jin referred to them as. Then others from outside of the school gathered from all across the country. They could be distinguished by the helmets that they wore, resembling a cartoon bear, the right half white and the left half black, like a mascot from a kids show.

Chisa sat perched on the edge of her desk, resting her register on her lap, but she didn’t show signs of getting ready to read from it.

Or any signs of living, really. But she was definitely alive, for now.

The classroom door opened. Sayaka came in, shaking, grasping a knife. A few people turned. None of their stony expressions cracked. She shuffled over to her desk. No one commented on her tear-streaked cheeks as she sat down.

“Just Naegi and Ikusaba left to get here now,” stated Mondo.

By the window, Touko barely stirred. Most of the others stayed silent.

“They should be back soon,” said Aoi tonelessly, gazing downward. “Ikusaba-chan left some time ago for him.”

Yasuhiro kneaded the back of his neck with his elbow on his desk, slouching forward. He looked up. “They’ll be okay, ‘right? Ikusaba-chi can put up a fight.”

Sayaka continued staring at her knife.

“Yes, that’s right,” said Chisa quietly but suddenly, breaking out of her stupor. She slapped on a determined smile and nodded at her class. “We need to have some more faith... and be a bit more optimistic, like Naegi-kun.”

Chisa stood up and hiked up a finger.

“I know that our situation seems hopeless, class, but it’s only hopeless if we decide that it is. As long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other, then we’re making progress.” She shrugged, keeping her head up, continuing to smile. “That’s what Naegi-kun would say, I think.”

As she surveyed the miserable faces in front of her, she decided she would double her efforts to be positive, and she stood up straighter.

“We must stay united as a class. So... how about we start roll call?” suggested Chisa.

So she did just that, calling out their names and hearing them mumble theirs back. Halfway through, the door opened, and everyone turned toward it.

Mukuro entered, alone.

“Where’s Naegi-kun?” asked Chihiro, their hand hovering close to their mouth, nails bitten to raw stubs.

She closed the door behind herself. “He wasn’t in his dorm.”

Everyone shifted in their seats, looking at each other. Leon tried phoning him, then frowned.

“Nothing,” he said, lowering his phone.

“We should go look for him,” said Sakura as she rose to her feet. “He might be in danger.”

But before she started to make her way to the door, Touko straightened off her seat. Her chair rasped back. The noise it made sounded like a groan of pain that came from the gut.

“H-Hey,” said Touko, facing the window. She pressed her finger against it. “W-What’s going on down there...?”

Everyone, including Chisa, gravitated toward the window. A large group of protesters stood around a pile of sticks. In the middle of it was a tall stake, driven into the ground. They surrounded it, but as a smaller group of them approached, carrying something swathed in layers of cloth, they made space for the new arrivals to walk through.

At first, the class couldn’t tell what it was they were carrying. Whatever it was, they brought it to the sticks, and only then did they unravel it.

Aoi screamed.

It was a body.

It was Makoto’s body.

The class could only watch in horror as the body was tied to the stake with rope. Someone lit a fire, and when they added petrol, the flames burned more intensely.

“Naegi!” the class screeched.

Chihiro and Kiyotaka threw up. Aoi shook her head, covering her mouth. Then the television in their classroom turned on, and a helmet-wearing man appeared on it against a black background.

“Attention, traitors of society. Last night, one of your kind tried to bribe us, exchanging one of your students for the life that your murderer stole from us. However, we do not do deals with your kind, and it is more than you harbouring Genocider Syo. Your school chose to recruit her. Your school chose to train a killer. Your school chose to hide deaths, not just of our brother but of your own council. They funded this with our money. They refuse to listen to us. Therefore, we will tell you who gave him to us. It was...”

Dramatic pause.

“... Chisa Yukizome.”

Her name was a dagger that lunged into their hearts straight on.

“W-What?” said Chisa, recoiling. She put a hand on her chest. “I...”

Footage played, depicting her dragging a body bag to a group of protesters, seemingly taking place at night. Chisa opened the bag enough to reveal the face, the undeniable face of their friend.

It cut off there.

Very slowly, everyone started turning toward her.

“Yukizome-sensei,” said Junko, raising her eyebrows.

“That isn’t me,” Chisa choked out. She stepped back. Then another time. “I would never do that.”

Celes’s wide eyes scrunched. Her doll-like face became contorted.

“Do you have a secret twin? Is it secretly a robot with artificial intelligence?” asked Celes. “Because it looks a lot like you.”

Leon bared his teeth and threw out his arm. His eyes shimmered. “You gave us that whole speech about hope and being like Naegi... and you traded him off?”

“Did he mean nothing to you?” said Kiyotaka, his eyes welling with tears. “He... He was what binded our class together! And you... you killed him, Yukizome-sensei.”

Chisa quaked, rendered speechless. She fumbled, draining of colour.

“No, I-”

Before she could get another word out, Sayaka lunged at her with the knife and thrusted it into Chisa’s heart. A toe-curling scream came out of Chisa, who crumpled to the ground. Sayaka extracted the knife, and kneeling on Chisa, stabbed her again, and again, and again, until Chisa was very dead.

It didn’t bring Makoto back.

Aoi cried into Sakura’s chest. Sakura embraced her tightly. Touko’s face puckered and she turned away.

“M-Maizono-chi,” said Yasuhiro, his eyes bulging. “You...”

“She killed Naegi-kun,” said Sayaka, splattered with blood. Her body shook, and she had to readjust her hold on the knife so it didn’t fall from her hands. “Because of her... he’s gone!”

Makoto Naegi was dead. Their class president was dead. Their friend was dead.

“There’s no use complaining,” said Celes, not unkindly as they all gazed down at Chisa’s corpse. “It can’t be undone. Yukizome-sensei is dead.”

Silence rang.

“You know whose fault this is?” said Hifumi eventually. No one else looked up. “It’s Fukawa Touko-dono. If we offer her to the prep school, like they wanted in the first place, then they may be pacified.”

Touko stiffened as everyone turned to her, but she didn’t look like she was going to object.

“But it’s not Fukawa-san’s fault, is it?” asked Junko. She twirled some hair around her finger and pushed her hips out to one side. “Have any of you like... even used google? A key feature of Dissociative Identity Disorder is a history of trauma.”

Junko gestured to the window.

“They created her,” she said. “This world created Genocider Syo, like it created Hope’s Peak and the people who killed our dear friend, Naegi-kun. It’s Hope’s Peak, and this world, that made us who we are. Genocider Syo only revealed how rotten the world is. She didn’t make it that way. Without her, we would be living in the same world... this world, none the wiser.”

Already, she had them entranced. Junko walked over to Sayaka and gripped her shoulders.

“Maizono-san, you wanted to inspire young girls. You wanted to make sure that no girl ever felt alone... but the idol industry is tainted. Your image... is used to trick impressionable girls. And this school... they stole your precious friend from you.”

Sayaka breathed loudly. Junko slunk around the classroom, placing her hands on different people’s shoulders. Who she spoke to and about depended on which of her classmates she had in her possession.

“Poor Ishimaru-kun... literally! Ever since your grandfather’s scandal, your family has been trying to pay back loans that he left behind... and though you try your best, society has never forgiven you. They bully you. Spit in your face. And it’s not even your fault.”

She slithered over to Kyouko.

“What has your father done, Kirigiri-san? First, he abandoned you, and now he has created this mess. People dying, with no punishment, no justice. He covered up so many crimes, isn’t that, like, the opposite of what a detective should do?”

Kyouko didn’t respond, staring into space. Junko brushed her arm against Kyouko’s cheek as she turned away. She made her way to everyone, whispering, touching, until she stopped by Byakuya’s and Touko’s desks.

With a small smile, she cupped Byakuya’s chin. He didn’t acknowledge her.

“Togami-kun... or what is it I should call you? Your family name is in tatters. You’ve been disowned. Nameless. But you’re more than the conglomerate, aren’t you? Remember in our last exam, when you wanted to show off the cold cases you solved, how many instruments you could play and how super talented you are? And they like, asked what that had to do with being an heir and just wanted to see how much money the conglomerate was making? That was awful! But you know what? Your conglomerate and this school are holding you back. Now... Now you can break out of your mould and show them who’s in power! Show them the influence and wrath of Byakuya!”

A furrow formed in Byakuya’s brow.

Junko released him and stroked Touko’s cheek. She could feel Touko tremble and smiled sweetly at her.

“Dear Fukawa-san, I’ve always considered you extra special. When I see you, I see the whole world. I see the reality of society, how cruel, dark and twisted it is, and how much delight it takes in that. Only people like you can envision an ideal world... now tell me, Fukawa-san, what must we do to create a perfect world?”

Touko lifted her head slightly. The colours in her eyes swirled.

“We need... despair,” said Touko. “Despair... will teach... humility... will let others feel our pain... and sympathise... and only then can we start again.”

With a grin almost wide enough to tear through her cheeks, Junko said, “Good girl.”


 

After a long day of work, Junko’s heels clicked loudly against the tiled flooring. Today had been the worst! All of her classmates driven to despair! People murdering family, friends, strangers! Should those be in a different order? Ah, who cared!? Who wanted to be predictable?

She flung open the door of the laboratory basement, because of course a seedy place like Hope’s Peak would have one. Ah, she remembered how Yusuke would work here with that scowl of his, and how his brow would wrinkle in such an adorable way.

“Muku-chan!” she called out, her cheery voice filling the high-tech room full of machinery that she didn’t know the names of.

This place totally didn’t suit a fashionable girl like her. Cute girls like her belonged in dressing rooms, and the only aspect in this laboratory like that was the orange wig on a wig stand and an outfit just like the one that Chisa wore to work everyday. Being a model had its perks. though she had the Super High School Level Cosplayer in a lower class to thank for the costume.

Further in the laboratory basement, Mukuro looked up from the knife she was sharpening, sitting on a desk chair that Yusuke used to sit on. Before he died. Before Junko killed him.

Where was a laugh track when you needed it?

“There’s no better way to fool dummies than with a dummy!” Junko announced. She marched over to Mukuro and pulled on her cheeks. “Right, dummy?”

Whatever Mukuro mumbled was incomprehensible, and Junko didn’t care what Mukuro said anyway. Junko let go of her and wrapped her arms around herself.

“Ah ha... I’m tingling all over! I’ll need a cigarette after I’ve ridden this despairlightful sensation out!” said Junko, and then she dissolved into a fit of giggles.

Mukuro rubbed her cheeks, wincing. However, Junko had lost interest in her. She left Mukuro and approached a glass pod. It had a wide surface to peer through and Junko pressed her face against the glass, squashing her nose into a snout.

“Sleep while you can, pudding. It’ll be time to wake up soon,” said Junko, and she threw her head back and laughed.

Inside the pod, a male floated, submerged in a green liquid. His short brown hair was now blonde, still with his ahoge, and when he opened his eyes, more notable than the shift in colour from hazel to spiraling blue was the lack of hope in them. All that was there was despair.

Junko hugged herself, and under her breath, went, “Upupupu...”